Saturday, January 20, 2018

Me and NaMoPaiMo

I wish I'd kept a copy of what I wrote in the comments for my NaMoPaiMo entry.  It was downright funny! along the lines of:  Although following the crowd is anathema to me, this horse of all my 13 unfinisheds is talking to me most strongly.  "Flame mane copper liver chestnut," he says, "that's as close as you'll get, Akhal Tekes don't come in silver bay."  "But you don't have a mane," I say.  "Sculpt some," he says, "thirty-nine years in the hobby has given you the skills."  "I'll call you Brasenose," I say.

It was surely one of my best paragraphs.  Brasenose, incidentally, means bronze nose:  rather appropriate for a metallic-copper-tinted horse, don't you think?  It's the name of a college in Oxford England, a building actually, and I got it reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (one of my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) at the time I was buying this horse.  I found out that the bronze doorknocker of the building, in the shape of a dog's head, gives it its name.  It's a very English name for a very Russian horse.  This contrast, like the mane/no mane, perfectly represents my ambivalence towards the project.
Of course the horse was talking to me.  In the NaMoPaiMo FaceBook group I see posts from people asking what color to paint their horses.  Use your imagination and give it time.  Eventually even  tack may speak to you.  Tack certainly speaks to me!

My story begins with an MH$P ad, but the roots go back to becoming interested in jogging and race-running for health reasons.  Of the many breeds I've identified with in my life, the current one is clearly solidifying: the Akhal Teke and its ancestor the Turkmene (E.H.Edwards' Horse Type 3).  Who'd'a thunk it!!  since I was raised on Quarter Horses and went through Belgians and Paso Finos...  whose favorite color was black bay tobiano and favorite breed, if you'd asked, was the Moroccan Pinto... (all right, let's go off the rails for a moment and confess my real favorite breed, the Zalar:  a carousel horse carved by John Zalar!!)  Anyway I'd been focusing on Akhal Tekes for a couple years, such as Breyer's Lonesome Glory and the CollectAs.  Then I started noticing resincasts.
Last year I'd had my Mini Rose Khan painted by Jennifer (Danza) O'Donnell.  I asked for the "Golden Horse" coffee table book for Christmas, and got it!!  (Thank you Janet!)  When I saw Margarita Malova's Gazyr and Magnolia on MH$P last October, I was smitten.
Photo by Margarita Malova
As cute as that foal was, the stallion was what grabbed me.  I could find very little wrong with his conformation.  Every other Ahkal Teke resin was either unaffordable or just didn't look right to me.  This one, though of very limited production (the ad promised a mere 10 copies) was within my range.  The fact that he was part of the Russian wave just added to his allure.  My husband and I had great fun following the postal tracking of his box.
(I don't think he's really limited to 10 copies, by the way.)
Notice the Cyrillic characters on the box.
 At the same time I was trying to decide whether to join NaMoPaiMo.  I had extremely complicated feelings about it.  My observations are part of this blog (Thoughts on NaMoPaiMo) but my actual participation centered around a saddle blanket.  How's that again?  A saddle blanket for a silver parade set:  a black-and-white corona.
Of all the participants in the first National Model Painting Month, I'll wager I was the only one doing a piece of tack.  And I must have been the record-holder in confused feelings, because I was trying to keep the saddle under wraps (command of the owner) while viscerally responding to the trumpetcall of a FaceBook group passionately involved in something I cared about.  Not the horse-painting so much as the group dynamics were what called me.  I was new to FaceBook still, and here was history being made, right in front of me.  I read most posts.  I stubbornly clung to what had been true for decades:  I was a tackmaker, not a painter.  What I needed from this huge and wonderful push was to get that corona done.  It had the benefit of truth.  I did finish.
Arrow shows white band.  TSII #456 'Star Wars'
I look back now and credit myself with an original and perfectly acceptable solution to my situation, but at the time I was so shy I only managed squeaks of comments on other people's horses.  (It takes time to form new habits of gabbing in public when one's decades-long hobby history was carried out by handwritten letter.)  Plus, this organization was NEW, and no one really knew how it would turn out.  I was, and still am, very strongly trained not to post anything on FaceBook that could possibly be construed as a criticism.
Starting to sculpt the mane
Well, it turned out fine.  I don't think I could go so far as to credit politics with inspiring a spirit of supporting inclusiveness in defense against hard times, but those times were right for NaMoPaiMo's attitude of helpfulness.  Even professional tackmakers need psychic support, as it turns out.
Of course the next thing that happened was NaMoTackMo.  You'd think that would be a natural for me.  It was.  My habits of reticence proved too strong for me to take a hostess position (plus I honestly didn't have the time), yet I enjoyed it very much.  Many good pieces were born and many good posts written.  Tackmaking is different than horse-painting, and there was a far higher rate of 'failures' or non-completions; still, I used the energies of NaMoTackMo to help finish my monster silver parade saddle,  TSII #456, 'Star Wars.'

What a fantastic idea my hobby had come up with!  This was worth joining FaceBook after all.  For all its time-wasting, it had merit.  But paint a horse??  I hadn't painted a horse since 1983...!!!
Not true.  I had painted the mane and tail on the Moody Minuet seen in my last blog post (Silver Acorn) in 1996.  I had painted any number of figures on my saddles.  I had etched something like 6 horses.  Painting was, if not directly used, at least in my toolbox of skills.  Brasenose had been perfectly right.

Other hobbyists, particularly Lisa and Bobbie, encouraged me.  It will be these few, I am sure, who will see me through.  I haven't got a crowd personality; perversely, I interpret heaps of people leaping on something as a sure sign I should run.  I suppose it is related to my husband's hatred of traffic jams and big cities.  I'm not just afraid of a crowd; when people do something just because others are doing it, I lose my respect for them.  It's a narrow path to tread:  sovereign independence versus the connectivity FaceBook gives in spades, and which I find I need after all.  If I can keep my courage (and of course manage the time!), I just might succeed.

As for the mane part:  I had sculpted several saddle trees, particularly that of the Clyde Goehring set (Tree Fun) and I still had the Apoxie that Ann Bilon had gifted me.  Brasenose was right again.  There was no stopping this skinny Russian horse.  He might not have a partner or wife, he didn't even have eyes yet, but he sure had ideas!

Today I finally set aside time to make a mane for him.  I wanted it to be sparse and thin, yet long enough to show a flaxen color shading to bright at the tips.  One hard part was creating it so as to allow for future tack wearing: "tack friendly."  I'd seen enough Akhal Tekes to know where the necklaces go.  For all my grumping that I wasn't interested in Akhal Teke tack making (truth:  I've never made a set, never bought one and never been tempted), that mane speaks more truly of my intentions.
Grenendere, PAS in the background, is for the carousel saddle restoration.

We come now to a mystery.  How did I happen to choose to try pastels?  I think it was by elimination.  I didn't want acrylics, which I somehow equated with enamels and didn't like the finish-feel of.  I didn't want oils, which would smell too much and besides had a cachet of professionalism I wasn't ready for.  I didn't want to use an airbrush, although I had one; I wanted the handheld tactile control of a paintbrush, something I'd known from tack for 30 years.  My mother had dabbled in pastels when I was growing up.  The thought of slowly layering on powders was strangely akin, in my mind, to dyeing leather, which happens by layers.  The only sticking point was the sealant spraying.  I could not do that in the house, for reasons familial, medical and historical.  Somehow I had to get around that.
Customizing the ears: a bit smaller, with curved tips
So that's how it happened that I can blame a model horse for causing me to clean out the storage barn.  It's a long chain, but it does connect. 
The offside ear is now done too.
Some Akhal Tekes have ears that curve inwards.  The Golden Horse book claims they may be the ancestral stock of the Marwari and Kathiawari.  Gazyr has very long, big ears.

As of now, the barn is not cleaned out.  Finding the time has been my main sticking point; unlike some young participants, I have a house and a husband and a career to take care of.  Plus, what is not obvious:  documenting a project just adds to the time it takes.  I don't have a percentage but it must be considerable: say about 30%.
But the vision is clear:  I know what color I want.  In a purely personal fashion, my goal is not so much a real horse (though I do have photos) as another model.  I want the copper-enhanced liver chestnut of Stone's Ragtime and Jazz.  I started out wanting a copper Wedgewood -- how simple that would've been!  There's nothing in the rules saying it has to be realistic --  then switched to silver bay.  Then, realizing (thanks Lesli) that Akhal Tekes don't come in silver bay, I made up a color.  Brasenose started talking, and he's been talking ever since.
Wish me luck.  And come join us.


  1. Best of luck, Sue! And while I would like to join you, I am no artist. I will follow the fun on Facebook, and I hope you'll post progress pictures on your blog. Have fun!!

  2. We were in Oxford this past Christmas and I saw the building with the carving "Brasenose". Didn't know to look for the door knocker though... I'll have to see if I took a picture of it, but I do remember thinking of you and your Brasenose when I saw it!